Circe, once the lover of Odysseus or Ulysses, warned him about the Sirens, the beautiful women with amazing voices, who try to allure and kill the sailors, who pass their island. While they actually intend to kill them, they assure the sailors that they just want to entertain them with their melodies. Circe informed Odysseus that those seductive dames are actually the Sirens, who sit beside the ocean, combing their long golden hair and lure the sailors with their enchanting voice. The unsuspecting sailors, who hear their song, become mesmerized by its sweetness and are drawn to the island like iron to a magnet. Their ship smashes upon the rocks as sharp as spears and the sailors join the many victims of the Sirens in a meadow filled with skeletons.
Apart from informing Ulysses about the Sirens, Circe also gifted him a large block of beeswax and advised him to put it in the ears, while passing the island of the Sirens.
As his ship glided across a calm and grey sea toward an island of sloping meadows, golden in the sun, the warning of Circe triggered fear in Odysseus. To follow her instructions, Odysseus immediately broke the block of beeswax into small pieces. He gave one small piece to each of his men and told them to soften it and put it into their ears.
However, Odysseus intended to survive, despite hearing the infamous music. According to the advice of Circe, he therefore instructed his men to tie him tightly to the mast of his ship, so that he would not be able to steer the ship off its course. After he was firmly tied, his sailors started to row their ship alongside the island, with their ears plugged with the beeswax.
As the ship was gliding along the shore of the island, the alluring sound of music of the bewitching Sirens enchanted Odysseus’ heart. He longed to plunge into the waves of the sea and to swim to the island to fulfill his irresistible desire to embrace the Sirens, each one whom were as beautiful as the Helen of Troy.
He strained his muscles to make himself free and the bonds cut deeply into the flesh of his back and arms. He urged and implored his men to make him free, which was futile, as his men, deaf with the beeswax, continued to row harder with their oars, as the Sirens seemed to them like hungry monsters with vicious, crooked claws.
The song of the Sirens soon became an echo of an echo, as the ship speedily passed forward, leaving the island far behind. After reaching a safe distance, the crew took their breath of relief, unplugged their ears and untied their leader. Odysseus, in his turn, finally came to his senses, as he avoided a fatal catastrophe by heeding the advice of Circe.
The mythical story of Odysseus and the Sirens is one of the famous legends, retold by Homer in his ‘Odyssey’. Like many other ancient mythological stories, it also inspired many master painters during the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries.